PCT Days 128-143: Oregon Part II, Lava and Glaciers

I didn’t know what to expect from Oregon.  What I got was more mountains, beautiful forested views, and glaciers(!). More weekenders and section hikers. Couples from Portland hiking with tiny dogs. Lots of drippy pale green moss. And smoke. Always smoke.

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Also: lava beds. Lava bed hiking is The Worst.

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But obsidian fields: obsidian is The Coolest.

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Glacial creek crossings: not as terrifying as expected!

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Also, infrastructure is back: Shelter Cove, with its fishing competition and camp store. Elk Lake Resort: ice cream! campsites! Big Lake Youth Camp, a haven of efficient, cheerful amenities delivered by oh-so-clean teenagers.

The seasons are starting to shift. There’s one morning when the light and the breeze and the temperatures bring Fall rushing in like a river—but is it the time of year, or is it our ever-more-northerly latitude?

We’re clearly making progress, slowly inching up on the map, but still I have an array of frustrations: with my aching feet, my slow speed, how heavy my pack still feels, with each other. 24/7 is a lot of time to spend with another person, especially when doing something so physically, mentally, and emotionally taxing. One person gets frustrated, then the other person gets frustrated with their frustration.

We pass 2,000 miles (two thousand miles!)  and walk through huge swaths of burned forest where the wind rushes through sounding like a raging river on the other side of the crest. On Day 138 we decide to do A Thirty for the first time: a thirty-mile day, just to see if we can, just to say that we did. We hike separately so that in case I can’t make it I won’t be holding Fancypants back. It’s a wonderful day—a solo adventure, setting my own pace, taking my own breaks—the whole adventure of the trail compressed into one epic day. I make it: 31.1 miles, the last mile uphill through effing sand, ending with dinner and a hotel room at the Timberline Lodge.

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There are more glacial creeks, more green ridge tops, more hazy views of volcanos. Finally, we charge through crowds of day hikers on the Eagle Creek alternate and into Cascade Locks for a double zero in preparation for the last push: Washington.

Day 128 / August 13 through Day 143 / August 28
298.7 miles, PCT Mile 1845.5 to 2144.2

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